I’ve heard a lot of strange hypotheses in my life, but this one is one of the strangest: mobile phones may be wiping out bees. How? According to the hypothesis, radiation given off by mobile phones and other hi-tech gadgets interferes with bees’ navigation systems, preventing them from finding their way back to their hives. Improbable as it may seem, there apparently is evidence to back this up.
Jochen Kuhn, a scientist at Landau University, Germany, recently found that bees do not return to their hives when mobile phones are placed nearby. Kuhn said this observation could provide a “hint” to a possible cause of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).
CCD occurs suddenly when the inhabitants of the hive disappear, leaving only queens, eggs and a few immature workers behind. The vanished bees are never found, but are thought to die alone and far from home. Curiously, parasites, animals and other bees that normally raid honey and pollen that are left behind when a colony dies, refuse to go anywhere near these abandoned hives. Why?
“I am convinced the possibility is real,” said George Carlo, a scientist who led a large study by the US government and mobile phone industry of hazards from mobiles during the 1990s.
The alarm was first sounded last autumn, but has now hit half of all American states. The West Coast is thought to have lost 60 per cent of its commercial bee population, with 70 per cent missing on the East Coast.
CCD has since spread to Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece. And last week John Chapple, one of London’s biggest bee-keepers, announced that 23 of his 40 hives have been abruptly abandoned. [story]
As if this isn’t bad enough, in addition to these potential perils to bees, evidence of health dangers to people from mobile phones is also increasing. But definitive proof is still lacking, mainly because many of the biggest perils, such as cancer, take decades to show up. However, an official Finnish study found that people who used the phones for more than 10 years were 40 per cent more likely to get a brain tumour on the same side of their head where they habitually held their handset. Equally worrying, a Swedish research team found that radiation from mobile phones kills brain cells, raising the possibility that teenagers could become senile in the prime of their lives. Additionally, several studies suggest that men who use mobile phones heavily have reduced sperm counts.
All in all, the potential (but unlikely) health damage due to radiation from hi-tech gadgets combined with the loss of the world’s bees is a very scary prospect.